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TYLA Director Spotlight: Cali Franks

Sat, 07/11/2020 - 23:01

Editor’s Note: In this blog series, we are getting to know the members of the Texas Young Lawyers Association Board of Directors. TYLA, commonly called the “public service arm” of the State Bar of Texas, works to facilitate the administration of justice, foster respect for the law, and advance the role of the legal profession in serving the public. All TYLA programs are accomplished through the volunteer efforts of its board and committee members, with the cooperation of local affiliate young lawyers associations. Learn more at tyla.org.

Name: Cali Franks

Firm: Bocell Ridley, P.C.

Area of Law You Practice: Insurance Defense, Civil Litigation

Position Held in TYLA: American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division District 26 Representative

How did you get involved in bar service?

After moving back to my hometown near Dallas, I sought to become involved in bar service. I had my first exposure to bar service through the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers 2019 Leadership Class.

What is your favorite TYLA project and why?

My favorite TYLA project is the CLE Roadshow because as someone who grew up in small-town Texas, I understand the importance of camaraderie of young lawyers throughout Texas.

What tips can you give to other attorneys to manage stress?

Find your passion outside of law. Find an activity that takes you outside of analysis, cases, and clients and instead allows you to relax. This gives you excitement and something to look forward to when things get tough.

What is a piece of advice you would give new lawyers or law students?

Figure out why you went to law school, write it down, and look at it frequently. This grounds you and gives you the reason to overcome stressful times.

What do you do in your spare time?

I am currently training for a marathon in Disney World in 2021 and enjoy taking lessons to better my golf and tennis games.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I did not turn 21 years old until my second year of law school.

Anything else you wish to share?

I love to laugh and I am the biggest fan of “Dad Jokes.”

Joint statement of State Bar of Texas and Texas Young Lawyers Association leaders regarding comments by Larry McDougal

Sat, 07/11/2020 - 15:19

Online comments made by Larry McDougal regarding #BlackLivesMatter do not reflect the values of the State Bar of Texas and we denounce them in the strongest terms. As leaders of the 105,000-member State Bar of Texas and the 26,000-member Texas Young Lawyers Association, we are united against racism and dedicated to the bar’s mission of advancing diversity and inclusion in the administration of justice and the practice of law. Indeed, we applaud any organization whose primary goal seeks to ensure equal justice for all Americans. Recent official statements by State Bar of Texas and TYLA leaders reflect this commitment to equality, including Executive Director Trey Apffel’s column in the July 2020 issue of the Texas Bar Journal titled “It’s Past Time to Reckon with Racial Injustice.”

We know that the State Bar of Texas has an obligation to improve the quality of legal services, and this includes improving diversity and inclusion in all aspects of our bar. We know many of our members don’t feel included as part of the bar or question the bar’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. We pledge to change that. We will work closely with and support the State Bar Office of Minority Affairs and the State Bar sections and committees that are committed to advancing the goals of diversity and inclusion and equal justice under the law. We also support President-elect Sylvia Borunda Firth’s plans to create a task force to further advance these issues. We look forward to reporting more about these efforts in the weeks ahead.

The State Bar of Texas and our legal profession are larger than any one person, but we believe each person can be a vehicle of change and we hope for positive change throughout the remainder of this bar year.

Sylvia Borunda Firth, President-elect
Randy Sorrels, Immediate Past President
Charlie Ginn, Chair of the Board
Trey Apffel, Executive Director
Britney Harrison, TYLA President
Victor Flores, TYLA Immediate Past President
Jeanine Rispoli, TYLA President-elect

Free legal clinics for veterans in Harris County area

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 10:37

The Veterans Legal Initiative clinics will offer free legal advice and legal representation to low-income U.S. veterans in Harris and nearby counties every Friday from 2 to 5 p.m. over the phone.

Legal issues that may be discussed include family law, consumer law, wills and probate, property law, tax law, and disability and veterans benefits, as well as other civil legal problems. Qualifying veterans will be screened for additional free legal representation.

Applications can be submitted online at makejusticehappen.org or by phone at 713-228-0735.

To view a list of other free veteran legal clinics around the state, please go to the State Bar’s Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans website at texasbar.com/veterans.

Must-reads for July/August 2020

Wed, 07/08/2020 - 17:05

Ready for the latest issue of the Texas Bar Journal? Check out our July/August issue, covering civil rights and individual liberties and introducing the 2020-2021 presidents of the State Bar of Texas and Texas Young Lawyers Association. And don’t forget to check out Movers and Shakers, Disciplinary Actions, and Memorials.

Love (Of the Constitution) and Liberty in the Time of COVID-19
The role of a lawyer is vigilance.
Written by Elizabeth Brenner

LGBT Equality, Religious Liberty, and Masterpiece Cakeshop
Issues to consider.
Written by Dale Carpenter

Leading By Example
State Bar of Texas President Larry P. McDougal on being prepared for the unexpected.
Interview by Patricia Busa McConnico

‘You Have a Voice’
The Texas Young Lawyers Association president seeks to empower future leaders of the legal profession.
Interview by Eric Quitugua

Task force to study how to resume criminal court proceedings

Wed, 07/08/2020 - 11:33

A task force designed to help the Texas courts system resume criminal proceedings in light of the COVID-19 pandemic won approval June 24 from the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors.

The board approved the Presidential Task Force on Criminal Court Proceedings at the request of 2020-2021 State Bar President Larry McDougal, a Richmond criminal defense attorney.

The 17-member task force will meet by videoconference and advise the Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals regarding the resumption of criminal jury trials and other criminal law issues “to make sure we do it right,” McDougal told the board.

A preliminary report was expected by July 31.

The task force will supplement the work of the Jury Trial Advisory Group, which was formed in May at the request of the Supreme Court and with the support of the State Bar. The Jury Trial Advisory Group is assisting the Office of Court Administration as part of the judiciary’s plans to resume court operations. The Supreme Court issued an emergency order on June 29 further suspending jury proceedings in most circumstances until September 1.

McDougal

McDougal said the task force evolved from his discussions with Texas District & County Attorneys Association President Kenda Culpepper and Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association President-elect Grant Scheiner on how criminal proceedings should occur in light of the pandemic. “Criminal trials provide, with constitutional protections, a lot of complications—rights that cannot be waived that can be waived in the civil courts,” McDougal said, explaining the need for a specialized task force.

Culpepper, the Rockwall County criminal district attorney, and Scheiner, a Houston criminal defense lawyer, will co-chair the task force along with State District Judge Alfonso Charles, of Longview, the presiding judge of the 10thAdministrative Judicial Region.

Also serving on the task force are McDougal, Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Bert Richardson, and 12 additional members selected by the co-chairs. David Slayton, administrative director of the Office of Court Administration, and Trey Apffel, executive director of the State Bar, are liaisons to the group.

Disciplinary Rule Proposals

The board approved proposed amendments to Part VII of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, which deal with lawyer advertising and solicitation, and a new proposed Rule 13.04 of the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, regarding the voluntary appointment of custodian attorneys to assist with the cessation of practice. The proposals came from the Committee on Disciplinary Rules and Referenda, a nine-member committee created by the Texas Legislature in 2017 to review the disciplinary rules and oversee the initial process of proposing a change or addition to the disciplinary rules.

In January, the board sent an earlier version of the proposed advertising rules back to the committee for further consideration, including the possibility of amending it to allow the use of trade names. The revised proposal approved by the board would allow a Texas lawyer to practice law using a trade name that is not false or misleading.

The proposed rule is in line with the majority other states concerning the regulation of firm names, said State Bar Director Stephen J. Naylor, of Fort Worth, who chairs the board’s Discipline & Client Attorney Assistance Committee. Among other changes, the proposal also would simplify advertising disclaimer and filing requirements while maintaining prohibitions on false or misleading communications about a lawyer’s qualifications or services.

“Overall, the proposal generally streamlines and modernizes the current advertising rules, which are very complex and in some ways outdated,” Naylor said. “We believe that lawyers will appreciate these changes, as the rules provide better guidance for compliance purposes. At the same time, they protect the public from false and misleading communications, which is the main intent of the rules.”

The board voted to hold the proposals for submission to the Supreme Court at a later date as a bundle with other proposed rules. A rules vote by the membership is tentatively scheduled for February 2021, but the timeline could be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Naylor said.

For a rule change to take effect under the process, it must be approved by the committee, the board, the State Bar membership, and the Supreme Court.

Leadership Changes

Borunda Firth

El Paso solo practitioner Sylvia Borunda Firth was sworn in as State Bar president-elect during the board’s June 25 meeting. She is the first Hispanic woman and first person from El Paso to serve in that role. John Charles “Charlie” Ginn, of McKinney, succeeded Jerry C. Alexander, of Dallas, as chair of the board of directors. Supreme Court Justice Debra Lehrmann administered the oath of office to new officers and directors.

Awards

2019-2020 State Bar President Randy Sorrels presented presidential citations to:

  • State Bar directors August W. Harris III, of Austin, David C. Kent, of Dallas, and Robert E. McKnight Jr., of Victoria;
  • Associate Executive Director and Legal Counsel John Sirman;
  • Public Information Director Amy Starnes;
  • Communications Division Director Lowell Brown; and
  • the following State Bar divisions and departments: Information Technology, Law Practice Management, TexasBarCLE, and Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program.

Alexander, the outgoing board chair, presented the Public Member Award to Jarrod T. Foerster, of Houston, and the Outstanding Third-Year Director Award to Leslie W. Dippel, of Austin.

McCloud

The board also adopted a joint resolution honoring Dallas lawyer Karen McCloud. McCloud was serving as first vice president of the Dallas Bar Association when she died in April after a battle with cancer. She was a past president of the J.L. Turner Legal Association, Dallas Women Lawyers Association, and Dallas Association of Young Lawyers and was in line to become Dallas Bar president in 2022.

Also adopting the joint resolution were the Dallas Asian American Bar Association, Dallas Association of Young Lawyers, Dallas Bar Association, Dallas Hispanic Bar Association, Dallas Women Lawyers Association, and J.L. Turner Legal Association.

In other action, the board:

  • Heard a report from outside counsel on the McDonald v. Sorrels litigation, which challenges the mandatory bar in Texas. Go to texasbar.com/mcdonaldvsorrels to read filings in the case;
  • Heard but did not approve a proposed Annual Meeting resolution submitted by lawyer James Lee Murphy, of Alamo Heights, regarding a proposed constitutional amendment related to political expression;
  • Approved revisions to State Bar Board Policy Manual Sections 5.01 and 5.02.04 regarding State Bar sections.

Go to facebook.com/statebaroftexas to watch the meeting videos. View the agendas and meeting materials at texasbar.com/bodmaterials.

TYLA Director Spotlight: Tim Williams

Sun, 07/05/2020 - 05:46

Editor’s Note: In this blog series, we are getting to know the members of the Texas Young Lawyers Association Board of Directors. TYLA, commonly called the “public service arm” of the State Bar of Texas, works to facilitate the administration of justice, foster respect for the law, and advance the role of the legal profession in serving the public. All TYLA programs are accomplished through the volunteer efforts of its board and committee members, with the cooperation of local affiliate young lawyers associations. Learn more at tyla.org.

 

Name: Tim Williams

Firm: Sprouse Shrader Smith PLLC

Area of Law You Practice: General Commercial Litigation

Position Held in TYLA: Chair

How did you get involved in bar service? My law firm has a long history of encouraging participation in bar activities. When I started, I was immediately plugged in to local bar activities and TYLA projects.

What is your favorite TYLA project and why? I really enjoy the National Trial Competition. It is the premier mock trial tournament in the country and provides an avenue to teach advocacy to law students and provide them a platform to practice their future craft.

What tips can you give to other attorneys to manage stress? I think people manage stress in their own ways. For me, I manage stress by exercising, often going for a run early in the mornings.

What do you do in your spare time? Running, hiking, mountain biking, camping, watching sports, cooking.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you? I have a personal goal of running a marathon faster than Will Ferrell. I still haven’t done it. Also, I beat the Nintendo game Contra without the use of cheat codes in 1989.

 Anything else you wish to share? I have three kids and an amazing wife.

Texas Supreme Court cancels July bar exam, adds October online test

Fri, 07/03/2020 - 21:37

The Texas Supreme Court, in an order issued Friday, canceled the two-day in-person July Texas bar examination in response to accelerating COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions in the state.

The court directed the Texas Board of Law Examiners (BLE) to keep plans for a two-day September in-person exam “subject to guidance from public health authorities” and add an alternative online test on October 5 and 6.

The order came after a nearly six-hour Board of Law Examiners emergency meeting Thursday in which dozens of exam applicants spoke about the difficulties they face preparing for an in-person exam during the pandemic. The Supreme Court of Texas met later Thursday. An advisory from the court reported that the justices considered proposals from the Board of Law Examiners’ as well as others offered by the 10 Texas law school deans, letters from recent law school graduates, and an online petition calling for a “diploma privilege” that would allow law school graduates to be licensed without taking the bar exam.

In its order, the court directed the BLE to establish procedures for new applicants to register for the September bar examination or for the online exam in October. Under existing orders, applicants also may transfer their application fees and delay their examination to February, allowing them to practice law under supervision of a licensed attorney.

Supervised Practice Cards

In May, the court adopted new Rules Governing the Supervised Practice of Law by Qualified Law Students and Qualified Unlicensed Law School Graduates in Texas. These rules apply to any qualified law students, including LL.M candidates, qualified unlicensed law school graduates, and law students enrolled in a law school clinical legal education program, who request eligibility to engage in the limited practice of law under the supervision of a licensed Texas attorney.

To read more about Supervised Practice Cards and learn how to apply, go here.

How the legal profession has changed since 1970 

Thu, 07/02/2020 - 12:48

In my view, among the multiplicity of changes in the legal profession since 1970 are the following: technology, advertising, the draconian 2003 tort reform (HB 4/Proposition 12), mandatory arbitration, result-oriented appellate decisions reversing jury verdicts and the resultant reduction/diminishment of jury trials, the cost of legal education and legal services along with the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic since December 2019.  

I think it is a given that technology represents the dominant change in our profession over the last 50 years. Evolving technology continues to positively serve the public interest and the legal profession. I do not believe that tort reform, mandatory arbitration, or diminishment of trial by jury have served the public interests. Those changes have only served the special interests. (I think most trial lawyers—defense and plaintiffs—will agree.) I have no idea what will happen in the next 50 years. My hope is that advocacy for adherence to the rule of law, judicial independence, and jury trial preservation will ultimately prevail and not change.  

Sincerely, 

Woodrow M. Roark 
Tyler 
50-year lawyer 

What a plaintiff’s law firm learned from the coronavirus pandemic

Wed, 07/01/2020 - 14:31

Law school does not prepare you for the day your government says: “Everyone is ordered to stay home indefinitely.” The stay-at-home orders issued during the coronavirus pandemic shone a light on just how unprepared a large thriving personal injury law firm was for an event of this nature. However, it also gave us a chance to learn more about our need for sensitivity to the community and our ability to adapt and change. In the end, we learned about the importance of timing in advertising, the importance of having the right information technology team, the importance of having “A”-quality employees, and the future of providing legal services.

Lesson Learned on Sensitivity to the Community
Shortly after the stay-at-home orders kicked in we started getting phone calls from people complaining about our medical malpractice television ad. We had one ad that talked about the shocking number of medical malpractice cases that happen every year. The ad had been in the normal rotation and running for at least six months with no complaints. It was nothing new. The truth is, none of us had even thought about it being there because we were at work when our ads ran so we did not see them. All of a sudden, the feedback was along the lines of: “Doctors are fighting on the front lines for us, how can you run ads that go against doctors?”
Lesson learned: In short, what we learned from this experience is that you have to be sensitive to your community and aware of how your ads might be perceived as a result or an otherwise normal ad in your rotation can turn into a negative branding campaign for your company.

Lessons Learned About Having the Right IT Support Team
We had always talked about adapting to a firm that had everything online with a work-from-home policy and ability. Like many other companies, we had a slew of excuses why it wasn’t practical or possible at the time. Two days before the Houston stay-at-home order was issued, other cities in Texas had begun issuing their own stay-at-home orders. That was our wake-up call that like it or not, now was the time. We called our outside IT department and asked for guidance.

The IT department was amazing. The team immediately installed and implemented an Avaya one-X phone system and performed a full system check of everyone’s at-home work abilities to make sure we had what we needed to get all employees work-from-home ready. The Avaya system routed all phone calls to a laptop operated by our receptionist from home. From there she was able to distribute calls to the computers of all 35 employees as needed just as if she were sitting at her desk in the office. Employees could then take the calls through their computer without revealing their personal phone numbers. Additionally, the Avaya system came with chat capabilities for employees to communicate with each other outside of calls as well as a log in and out so that supervisors could see who was online and who was not at any given time. In a matter of two days, we went from unprepared to fully remote-working ready. Luckily, several years ago we realized we needed a full-service IT contract so that we were not dealing with server issues and downtime on our own. It really paid off when the stay-at-home order for Harris County was issued.

Lesson learned: Having the right IT company for your law firm and the right IT service plan is absolutely critical when the unexpected happens.

Lessons Learned About “A” Grade Employees
We once heard from an adviser that companies need to work to identify their grade “A,” “B,” and “C” employees at the end of each year. The grade “A” employees should be recognized. The grade “B” employees need to be encouraged, trained, and instructed so that they can become grade “A” employees. Lastly, the grade “C” employees need to be let go.

For several years now we have worked toward building a team primarily of grade “A” employees who excel at what they do regardless of their role with the company. When the stay-at-home orders kicked in, we found out just where we stood. When it became clear Harris County would fall in line with staying at home, our grade “A” employees kicked into action. Our management team came up with a plan on its own of how to conduct regular team meetings by phone, by Zoom, and by our messaging software so they could ensure work was uninterrupted from home. We inventoried systems and purchased needed webcams and hardware necessary to get everyone’s home computers work-from-home ready.

Because of our staff’s efforts, we were able to conduct client interviews, depositions, and meetings entirely from home—as a group or individually. Firm-wide meetings and even our office Bible study took place via Zoom. Our case managers and attorneys rotated days and times to come in to pick up any information needed. Mail was scanned and sent to the recipient. In the end, we were able to move cases more efficiently than we did before the stay-at-home orders came out. We had no issues with people not getting their job done due to lack of supervision.

Lesson learned: Finding and nurturing a culture of top-quality employees at all levels ensures that no matter what the world throws at you, you can still provide quality service to your clients.

Lessons Learned About the Future of Providing Legal Services
To prevent a total loss of new clients, we did exactly what other big firms did—slapped a COVID-19 banner on the website that said, “We can observe social distancing by using Zoom, yes we’re open.” We already had the ability to text or email contracts to clients so they could sign up via smartphone, and we had about 60% of the people preferring to do that and then meet in person later—so work could start immediately. The stay-at-home orders resulted in us getting everyone who communicates with clients Zoom ready so that we could keep moving forward.

But lawyers weren’t the only ones who did this. Doctors sent our notices to patients to conduct videoconferencing. Tax advisers, investment brokers, and other professionals began offering Zoom consultations. Everyone who wanted to keep business afloat figured out how to videoconference.
Regardless of what comes of the virus and social distancing, society has made a full leap into the remote conferencing world. It had already been the norm and a matter of convenience to the ever-growing tech-savvy younger generation, but we had not yet reached the point where companies controlled by older generations saw it as a necessary part of doing business. Now that those of us who resisted the change have been forced to get onboard with videoconferencing and we see how convenient it really is, it will be expected of us. People who have, in the past, accepted that business was not yet ready to make the leap are not going to buy that excuse anymore.

Lesson learned: The future of providing excellent legal service is in convenience. Going forward, people are going to expect the ability to do video consultations or they are going to take their business elsewhere.

Conclusion
The stay-at-home orders issued during the coronavirus pandemic resulted in several unanticipated challenges for lawyers. The experience gave us new insight into our advertising and our community perception. It tested the support from the IT department and validated our efforts to stop accepting just “adequate” employees and to cultivate the “A” grade people. Lastly, it opened our eyes to see the future of providing legal services. As painful as this test has been, it has helped us understand what the law firm business model of the future will look like.

Paul H. Cannon is a 25-year trial attorney at Simmons and Fletcher. He has been practicing personal injury law since 1995. Cannon has been certified in personal injury trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 2005.

Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program hosts virtual legal clinics

Wed, 07/01/2020 - 11:00

The Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, a joint initiative of the Dallas Bar Association and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, and local Dallas law firms are hosting virtual clinics every Thursday in July.

The following times are scheduled for July:

  • Thursday, July 2—Virtual Clinic with DVAP and DAYL Pro Bono Partners from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 9—Virtual Clinic with DVAP and Hunton Andrews Kurth from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 16—Virtual Clinic with DVAP and Perkins Coie from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 23—Virtual Clinic with DVAP and Alston & Bird from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 30—Virtual Clinic with DVAP and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld—4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Dallas County residents interested in applying for free legal assistance may do so online at https://tinyurl.com/DVAPClinic. After applications are completed, attorneys will call from a number labeled as “No Caller ID” or something similar.

For more information, go to dallasvolunteerprogram.org. Media inquiries about the clinics may be directed to DVAP Director Michelle Alden at aldenm@lanwt.org.

For free legal assistance at any time, contact the Dallas Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service as DallasLRS.org.

For more information about the Dallas Bar Association, go to dallasbar.org.

 

Texas Supreme Court extends case and filing deadlines, ban on jury proceedings in 18th order

Tue, 06/30/2020 - 10:49

The Supreme Court of Texas on Monday issued its 18th Emergency Order related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order amends existing provisions from the 17th Emergency Order issued May 26.

According to a Supreme Court Advisory on the order, the notable changes are:

Modifications of civil- and criminal-case deadlines and procedures extended no later than September 30. Texas courts may modify or suspend deadlines for civil and criminal cases (except in child-welfare cases) but for a stated period no later than September 30.

Extends ban on jury proceedings to September 1. A court must not hold a jury proceeding, including jury selection or a jury trial, before September 1, with exceptions for specially authorized jury trials before then.

Extends deadline to September 1 for limited jury proceedings. The Office of Court Administration, in coordination with the state’s regional presiding judges and local administrative judges, should assist trial courts in a limited number of jury proceedings before September 1, whether in-person or by remote proceedings involving trial and grand jurors. No later than August 15 the Office of Court Administration must recommend to the Court provisions for jury proceedings based on its evaluations of specially authorized jury proceedings.

Civil-case filing and service deadlines extended to September 15. Any deadline for the filing or service of any civil case that falls on a day between March 13 and August 1 is extended until September 15. As previous emergency orders have noted, this does not include deadlines for perfecting appeals or for other appellate proceedings.

Deadlines in child-protection cases. For parental-rights-termination suits the order clarifies provisions in the May 26 emergency order for extending the one-year statutory dismissal deadline for cases that have not been tried. The new order states that in all proceedings under the Family Code’s provisions for termination cases courts may extend the initial dismissal date as calculated under Section 263.401(a) only as provided by Section 263.401(b) or (b-1). The order also specifies that for any case previously retained on the court’s docket pursuant to Section 263.401(b) or (b-1) or for any case for which the dismissal date was previously modified under a COVID-19 emergency order, a court may extend the dismissal date no more than 180 days from June 29, the date of the order.

Other deadlines:
Eliminates further deadline extensions on attorney-discipline and -disability cases and specifies that hearings may be conducted remotely.

Eliminates deadline extensions for Judicial Branch Certification Commission-sanctioned issuance or renewal of certifications, licenses or registrations or for fulfilling mandatory continuing education.

The order continues its admonition that courts must not conduct in-person proceedings contrary to guidance by the Office of Court Administration and, before conducting in-person proceedings, must submit a plan that complies with the Office of Court Administration’s requirements.

This latest emergency order expires August 31 unless the chief justice extends it.

Dallas lawyers host free e-clinic series in July

Tue, 06/30/2020 - 10:01

Volunteer attorneys will be available to answer legal questions at the LegalLine E-Clinic, sponsored by the Dallas Bar Association, set to run on Wednesdays in July from 4 to 8 p.m.

Volunteer attorneys remain anonymous and will call participants to provide up to 15 minutes of free legal advice. Individuals may also receive referrals to local, legal, or social service agencies. Calls will come from an unknown number that may be labeled “No Caller ID” or something similar.

No attorney-client relationship will be established and there is no guarantee the attorney will speak any language other than English.

To participate, an online form is available at tinyurl.com/DBALegalLine. Registration closes at 5 p.m. on the Tuesday prior to each clinic.

For legal assistance any time, contact DBA’s Lawyer Referral Service at DallasLRS.org.

SBA provides safe harbors for payroll protection program borrowers

Tue, 06/30/2020 - 08:40

Created as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, the Payroll Protection Program, or PPP, is a federal relief program intended to provide small businesses with forgivable loans to keep workers employed during the COVID-19 crisis. Since its inception in late March, millions of businesses have applied for PPP loans. As part of the application process, borrowers are required to certify that current economic uncertainty makes the loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the borrower. According to the Small Business Administration, borrowers must make this certification in good faith, taking into account their current business activity and their ability to access other sources of liquidity sufficient to support their ongoing operations in a manner that is not significantly detrimental to the business. If it is determined that a borrower has not made the certification in good faith, the borrower’s loan will not be forgiven, and the borrower may be subject to possible administrative and even criminal repercussions.

Given the vagueness of the certification, the lack of an objective standard from the SBA and the possible consequences of making an error, the PPP loan certification has been a source of great consternation for many PPP loan borrowers. However, on May 13, 2020, the SBA released additional guidance providing safe harbors for borrowers related to the certification requirement. Under the new guidance, any borrower that, together with its affiliates, receives PPP loans with an original principal amount of less than $2 million will be deemed to have made the required certification concerning the necessity of the loan request in good faith.

When determining the $2 million threshold for this safe harbor, a borrower must include any PPP loans granted to its affiliates to the extent required under the SBA’s interim final rule on affiliates. The interim final rule provides that entities are affiliates of each other when one controls or has the power to control the other, or a third party or parties controls or has the power to control both. Under this broad standard, affiliation may be determined based on:

(1) Equity ownership when an individual or entity owns or has the power to control more than 50% of another entity’s voting equity. Notably, the SBA will deem a minority shareholder to be in control if that individual or entity has the ability, under an entity’s charter, bylaws, shareholder’s agreement, or similar agreement, to prevent a quorum or otherwise block action by the board of directors or shareholders.

(2) Exercisable options, convertible securities and, in some cases, merger agreements that, if exercised, would grant an individual or entity the power to control another entity. The SBA treats such options, convertible securities, and agreements as though the rights granted have been exercised.

(3) Shared management among entities when a CEO, president, officer, managing member, partner or entity in control of an entity’s management also controls the management of another entity, including through board control of multiple entities and/or control through a management agreement.

(4) Identity of interests when individuals or entities have identical or substantially identical business or economic interests, such as in the case of close relatives, individuals or entities with common investment, or entities that are economically dependent through contractual or other relationships.

If, after application of the affiliation rules, it is determined that a borrower, together with its affiliates, has received PPP loans of $2 million or more, then its certification will not automatically be deemed to have been made in good faith, and the borrower will be subject to review by the SBA for compliance with PPP certification requirements. If the SBA determines in the course of its review that a borrower lacked an adequate basis for the required certification concerning the necessity of the loan request, then the borrower will not be eligible for loan forgiveness. However, the SBA’s new guidance provides a safe harbor of sorts for those borrowers as well. If the borrower repays the loan after receiving notification from the SBA that it has determined that the certification was not made in good faith, then the SBA will not pursue administrative enforcement or referrals to other agencies based solely on that determination.

Based on this guidance, PPP loan borrowers with aggregate loans of less than $2 million can rest a little easier, at least when it comes to the required certification. Borrowers with aggregate PPP loans of $2 million or more must carefully analyze whether they can defend their certification if challenged by the SBA. Forgiveness of all PPP loans, regardless of amount, is still subject to careful adherence to the other PPP loan requirements outlined in the CARES Act and SBA guidance. All PPP loan borrowers should therefore maintain detailed records establishing both the need for the PPP loan proceeds and how they were used.

Clint L. Taylor is a shareholder in Stutzman, Bromberg, Esserman & Plifka in Dallas. He specializes in federal tax matters as well as mergers, acquisitions, commercial restructurings, and other business transactions. Taylor can be reached at clint.taylor@sbep.law.com.

Stories of Recovery: How I Got Free

Sun, 06/28/2020 - 23:01

Editor’s note: TLAP offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance use or mental health issues. Call TLAP at 1-800-343-8527 (TLAP), text TLAP to 555888, or find more information at tlaphelps.org.

I spent my whole life before law school achieving great things academically and trying to be perfect—and to somehow prove to myself that I was not my alcoholic parents. I was raised by my grandparents because of those issues.

Getting into law school seemed at the time my ticket to finally feeling like a success. I began using alcohol in law school to relax. They put a keg on the patio on Fridays, and I got tremendous relief from drinking then and incrementally more over the next decade.

After getting all the things I wanted on paper—the job in the respected firm, marriage, a nice house, awards, partnership, trial victories, and so on—I was completely empty. I wanted to never wake up. I was stuck in a job I hated, drinking like a fish, and things seemed hopeless. I got served divorce papers in the same month that my grandmother who raised me died unexpectedly.

I needed help and was too ashamed to get it. I was working on a case where the other lawyer owed me a call, and finally his paralegal called to let me know he had died in an accident. I remember wishing I were him.

My grandmother was a counselor, a teacher, and a principal, and she told me about depression and getting help when I was younger. I decided I had to try it.

After hiding my car down the street, I snuck into the therapist’s office and my life changed from that day on.

After getting my life and my thinking improved by therapy, I woke up to the fact that drinking was not just a symptom of my stressful life but a source of my problems. What was a solution had become the problem.

After a lawyer friend of mine quit drinking and seemed curiously happy about it and after my own efforts to manage the problem failed a million times, I walked into an AA meeting, and I have been sober and much healthier and happier since. I was horrified that going to a meeting would ruin my reputation and introduce me to burdensome losers.

What happened was the opposite. I discovered for the first time in my life that I belong. I found people who think and struggle just like I do. I found people who are able to be happy, joyous, and free without drinking or using other things to escape the difficulties of the world. I found a way to go through difficulties instead of around them. I worked all of the steps, and I saw many fail to enjoy sobriety or to remain sober who did not take that action. That action changed my psychology.

I am still working the steps, attending AA and Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, or LCL, meetings, and I continue maintenance on my mind with therapy. Many of my lawyer friends scoff at the idea of going to AA because they think it is a group of felons and losers. There are AA groups consisting of doctors, lawyers, and other professionals with few empty seats. There are groups like LCL that are only for lawyers and law students. If I had walked into some meetings, I would have walked out and never come back. I believe that anyone interested should try a few different meetings because I found them to be life bars, sometimes I wanted a hole-in-the-wall dive bar and sometimes I wanted a martini bar. I am so grateful that I found sobriety. It was the key to becoming the husband, father, and lawyer that I was supposed to be. If I had not, I am pretty sure I would be dead now.

Because of resources like the help that TLAP provides, I am alive and so grateful for my life. I am now able to help others who have struggled like me. Life is good when we are free.

TYLA Director Spotlight: Britney Harrison

Sat, 06/27/2020 - 23:01

Editor’s Note: In this blog series, we are getting to know the members of the Texas Young Lawyers Association Board of Directors. TYLA, commonly called the “public service arm” of the State Bar of Texas, works to facilitate the administration of justice, foster respect for the law, and advance the role of the legal profession in serving the public. All TYLA programs are accomplished through the volunteer efforts of its board and committee members, with the cooperation of local affiliate young lawyers associations. Learn more at tyla.org.

Name: Britney Harrison

Firm: GoransonBain Ausley

Area of Law You Practice: Family

Position Held in TYLA: President

How did you get involved in bar service? Austin Young Lawyers Association director and Austin Black Lawyers Association director/vice president.

What is your favorite TYLA project and why? The Unconscious Truth (see https://tyla.org/resource/the-unconscious-truth/).

What tips can you give to other attorneys to manage stress? Set boundaries, schedule self-care, and exercise.

What do you do in your spare time? Spend time with my friends and family.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you? I like to write fiction.

Texas Bar Foundation awards CHILDREN AT RISK $27,545

Fri, 06/26/2020 - 17:23

The Texas Bar Foundation’s award of $27,545 in funding will bolster research and advocacy nonprofit CHILDREN AT RISK’s efforts to help victims of sex trafficking. In particular, the organization will be able to gather research about the nondisclosure process created by the 86th Legislature and educate the legal community on how to use it to seal criminal records of victims who receive convictions resulting from being trafficked.

A Texas Slavery Mapping Project report estimated there are 79,000 minor and youth victims of sex trafficking in the state. Victims are forced in a life of prostitution and even after escape or rescue, they are often saddled with prostitution and other convictions. Those convictions inhibit victims from gainful employment, housing, and some government benefits and prevents them from being able to fully rehabilitate and reintegrate into communities. Without a way to seal convictions, traffickers continue to prey on victims’ vulnerability to housing and employment discrimination as well as the stigmas tied to prostitution.

But nondisclosures can allow victims to change how they are viewed and how they view themselves. In 2019, the Texas Legislature passed SB 20, which provides for the first time a streamlined process covering crimes sex trafficking victims are commonly convicted for. Those include prostitution, possession of marijuana, misdemeanor promotion of prostitution, and misdemeanor theft. The nondisclosure process permits a victim to consolidate numerous convictions for the above crimes into the same action in any jurisdiction in Texas.

CHILDREN AT RISK will recruit law students nationwide to serve as Summer Law Fellows. Theywill create and present a CLE that fully explains the Texas nondisclosure process and how to implement it, and provide an ethics component for representing human trafficking victims.

“We are excited to begin work on this new initiative,” Bob Sanborn, president and CEO of CHILDREN AT RISK, said in a press release. “Victims of trafficking have been through enough trauma. These funds from the Texas Bar Foundation will give us the support we need to educate Texas lawyers about Nondisclosure so they can effectively represent victims.”

For more information, go to childrenatrisk.org. For more information about the Texas Bar Foundation, go to txbf.org.

Fifty-year lawyer presented with lawyer pin and certificate as birthday surprise

Fri, 06/26/2020 - 12:30

Minister Fred Brown, of Blanco, was presented with his 50-year lawyer pin and certificate as a surprise for his 82nd birthday.

Horace F. “Fred” Brown, a minister at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Blanco, was presented with a surprise on his 82nd birthday—his 50-year-lawyer pin and certificate.

Brown, who received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law, practiced general legal matters, mostly litigation, with his father for more than two decades. While working as an attorney, he began doing prison ministries and gradually took to his current calling as a minister.

Brown served in the U.S. Navy in the Navy SEALs after graduating from Sewanee College. While serving in France, he was in a horrific motorcycle crash that required him to spend three years in hospitals, much of that time at the burn center in San Antonio. He attended St. Mary’s to get his law degree upon release.

State Bar of Texas Board of Directors meeting to begin at 10 a.m.

Wed, 06/24/2020 - 09:52

The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors meeting on June 24 has been postponed to 10 a.m. due to technical difficulties.

The meeting will be viewable by the public via a live stream on the bar’s Facebook page: facebook.com/statebaroftexas.

Links to board agendas and materials are available at texasbar.com/bodmaterials.

Texas Lawyers Bar Association appoints new administrators

Tue, 06/23/2020 - 16:58

Texas Lawyers Bar Association appointed six new administrators on June 22: Anita Kawaja, Johnetta Lang, Angel Mata, Eli Ponce McClain, Lydia Mount, and Sherrie Haussner Travers.

The new administrators join current administrators Michelle Cheng, Jason Rowe, and Andrew Tolchin, who have served as the sole administrators since 2014.

Texas Lawyers is a voluntary bar association with over 14,500 attorney members. For more information about Texas Lawyers, go to facebook.com/groups/texaslawyers.

Houston Volunteer Lawyers names Anne Chandler executive director

Tue, 06/23/2020 - 12:30

Houston Volunteer Lawyers named Anne Chandler as the new executive director effective June 22, 2020.

In her role as executive director, Chandler will oversee HVL’s mission to provide free civil legal services to low-income people in Harris County and promote volunteerism among attorneys.

“Anne brings years of leaderships and accomplishment to HVL at a time when Houston needs—more than ever—the services offered by HVL,” said Houston Bar Association President Bill Kroger in a news release.

Chandler, previously the executive director of the Tahirih Justice Center’s Houston office, has a long history of working with volunteers, supporting legal clinics, managing grants, and advocating for regional, state, and federal policies that provide justice and safety to immigration survivors of violence.

“I am very excited to be joining the Houston Volunteer Lawyers’ team at this time,” Chandler said. “HVL is an ideal position to provide low-income Houstonians with a free attorney so that our community is able to remain resilient and strong as we face challenges posed by this economic downturn, systemic racial injustices, and COVID-19.”

She previously served as a clinical professor at the University of Houston Law Center, director of immigration legal services for YMCA International Services, and as an adjunct professor at the University of Houston Law Center and Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law.

For more information about Houston Volunteer Lawyers, call 713-228-0735 or go to makejusticehappen.org.

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